Culture December 2, 2016
Michelle Dorrance is a tap dancer, choreographer, teacher and Artistic Director of Dorrance Dance. With her unique combination of traditional and contemporary, she has emerged as one of the leading tap dancers and choreographers in the United States.
Dorrance was born in 1979, beginning her training in dance at an early age. She initially started dancing with ballet, but soon discovered her true passion in the form of tap. At the age of eight, she joined the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble under the tutelage and mentorship of tap educator Gene Medler.
Michelle Dorrance is the sort of woman who does not let the limitations of time keep her from her goals. In 2001, she co-founded TiDii with Savion Glover, and then in 2007, she joined the cast of the off-Broadway production STOMP. Since 2002, she has been a faculty member of Broadway Dance Center in Manhattan. Last year, after winning a MacArthur Fellowship, she appeared on the Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert. This year, she collaborated with Nicholas Van Young for “ETM: Double Down,” a successor to their “ETM: Initial Approach.” Currently, she is the Artistic Director of Dorrance Dance, which tours all over North America and Europe.
Dorrance is known for engaging her entire body while dancing. She doesn’t concentrate on just the musicality of her tapping feet, but employs her arms, legs and torso in a unique blend of contemporary and tap dance.
According to the MacArthur Foundation, “Michelle Dorrance is a tap dancer and choreographer breathing new life into a uniquely American art form in works that combine the musicality of tap with the choreographic intricacies of contemporary dance. Dorrance uses her deep understanding of the technique and history of tap dancing to deconstruct and reimagine its artistic possibilities.”
This reimaging of artistic possibilities is evident in her collaboration with Nicholas Van Young. EMT (Electronic Tap Music) is a revolutionary way to create sound in which the dancers are able to “create a score that integrates the acoustic sounds the performers make as they dance with the percussive melodies they trigger digitally as they dance,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
This innovation is characteristic of Dorrance. As a result, she has garnered widespread praise for her unique choreography and style. “I think tap dance is the ultimate art form, at least for me,” she told NPR. “To be able to be a dancer and a musician at the same time, there’s nothing like it … There’s something that’s really organic in your footfall. There’s something organic in your biorhythm, your heartbeat. And to be able to demonstrate that inside of a moving form is phenomenal.”
Dorrance’s innate passion for tap dancing is combined with a desire to spread the art around the world. Her ambition is to increase the cultural relevance of tap dancing, as well as an understanding of its place in American history.
She said, “It’s really important for people to see both the history and the foundation of where this form came from and the possibilities that they may not have thought of yet.” It’s for this reason that she encourages her dancers to participate in after-school programs, securing in young minds an appreciation for the art.
Michelle Dorrance’s choreographic innovation and her collaborations with dozens of other tap masters have helped earn her an ongoing reputation as a fantastic dancer and original thinker in the oldest American dance form.
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